September 30, 2020
The universe of fetish attire is complex and tangled, but there’s one thing we can all agree on: jockstraps are hot. Why do we find ourselves fixated on athletic wear, and more specifically jockstraps? What cultural connotations do jockstraps hold that make them so universally alluring for guys who want to have sex with guys? To understand what we love about jockstraps, it may be helpful to understand their origin.
The original jockstrap was invented in 1874 by C.F. Bennet for Sharp and Smith, a Chicago based sporting goods company, with an eye for the bicycle messenger (or “bike jockey”) market. Bikers in the 19th century were peddling on bumpy cobblestones, and their junk was getting absolutely pummeled. Bennet’s “Bike Jockey Strap” was designed to ease their pain. After it’s the BIKE Athletic Company’s 1897 patent of the Bike Jockey Strap, and subsequent sale to Russel Athletic, the jockstrap was widely popular amongst athletes and other active men seeking support and comfort for their junk.
Despite its initial success, the jockstrap’s popularity among athletes has waned in recent decades, most directly because of the advent of compression shorts and boxer briefs.
“Modern boxer briefs pretty much solves the problem,” he says. “You don’t need to wear this weird contraption that has these straps that wrap around your butt. You can wear tight-fitting underwear, because it does everything a jockstrap did, which is keep things high and tight. That’s all you need.” Brian Steixner, M.D., Director of the Institute of Men’s Health at Jersey Urology Group in Atlantic City told Men’s Health
Still, you can’t throw a rock at a circuit party without hitting at least three guys sporting jockstraps. How did the Bike Athletic Company’s Bike Jockey Strap come to hold such a central place in our sexual psyche?
The 1940’s and 50’s saw massive popularity in “physique magazines” — publications ostensibly about bodybuilding and athleticism, that featured muscular men, or “beefcakes” as they were commonly called, in revealing or minimal clothing. These models would demonstrate exercises, and wrestling holds, and this became the main pornographic vehicle for gay and bisexual men who would often have no other connection to their own sexuality. These magazines, most notably Bob Mizer’s Physique Pictorial, also featured queer artists, and it was in this way that creators like Tom of Finland entered into the canon of queer erotica.
In the 60’s when pornography laws were relaxed and overt nudity became legal to publish, physique magazines went out of vogue, and it wasn’t until the resurgence of gym culture in the 80’s and 90’s that bodybuilding and physique magazines regained their popularity.
The athletic eroticism of beefcake magazines became the foundation of gay pornography and iconography, and at the very center of that aesthetic is, of course, the humble jockstrap.
The allure of the jockstrap isn’t just historical, of course. For many, our first interactions with jockstraps are in a high school locker room, at a time when our own sexual identities are beginning to take shape. We associate jockstraps with our own curiosity, with our own shifty glances, looking without looking at something we don’t even know we want. Jockstraps have come to be more than a piece of athletic wear, they represent masculinity, power, and a teasing eroticism just out of reach.
The original 19th century jockstrap is decidedly unsexy. It looks more akin to some kind of medically necessary garment than to the fetish gear we see today. The modern BIKE jockstrap, though, is quite the opposite. It almost seems amazing that it wasn’t invented for gay men to perfectly frame their muscular butts and create a stare-worthy bulge. Although the original BIKE jockstraps are no longer in production, GYM jockstraps have collaborated with the original manufacturers to continue the legacy of vintage, quality jockstraps. Jockstraps are at the foundation of our shared sexual consciousness, and there’s nothing quite like seeing that classic three inch elastic waistband peeking out from above a pair of shorts in the locker room.